The vast majority of candidates running for mayor in the country’s 61 municipalities have not published their electoral program. Even to the questions addressed to the parties registered in the May 14 elections, only one answered that they would publish their electoral program. Faktoje brings together the findings of the research on the lack of electoral program of the candidates and the arguments of the expert Afrim Krasniqi, how the candidates’ lack of concrete projects serves the parties’ interests and not those of the citizens. The conclusion? Both parties demand a significant central government and a fictitious local government, which is like an annex to the central government.
There are only 9 days left from the May 14 local elections, but over 80% of the candidates do not have an electoral program accessible to voters. This was the result of Faktoje’s research regarding the disclosure of concrete programs or projects that they offer their citizens.
“ The local government is the only government that is elected directly by the citizens and, as a result, the connection between the elected candidates and voters is much stronger than in parliamentary elections “ – says researcher and author of reports on electoral and party systems, Afrim Krasniqi, who states:
“It is a majority system. It means people vote for individual candidates, and in order for an individual candidate to be voted, he or she must have all the qualities a mayor is supposed to have. One of the main voting criteria for an individual is what this individual offers and what his or her contract with the citizens consists of”.
On April 12, 2023, Faktoje sent requests for information to the Socialist Party, the Democratic Party, the Freedom Party, the Party for Democracy Integrity and Unity, and the Together Movement, asking them whether they had already published their electoral program.
Request for information sent by Faktoje
The only response we received was from Together Movement, informing us that they would have a platform (political program) for the May 14 elections, which would be published in a few days on the party’s official website.
Since the other parties did not provide us with any information on their programs, Faktoje did a detailed research on the programs of the candidates for these local elections. The verification showed that, although the candidates mention having a program with concrete promises as their merit compared to their opponents, only 17 have actually published a program accessible online.
7 out of 143 candidates competing for the local elections have published programs only for specific issues, such as agriculture or infrastructure, and therefore are assessed as incomplete.
In addition, 119 of the candidates, including the mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj, do not offer voters any kind of electoral platform where they describe their plans and promises for the municipalities for which they run for mayors.
Why do candidates avoid having a written “contract” with their citizens?
Expert Krasniqi explains this phenomenon:
“On the whole, the candidates have been appointed by political leaders and are not individuals who have had the passion or project to compete. They were not prepared in advance to run, but did ran because their parties encouraged them. They are more like political delegates, like the First Secretary in the old days, than people who really have a project for the particular city they run for.”
Besides, this pronounced lack of concrete electoral programs comes naturally as a consequence of the lack of interest and lack of relevance of local elections for the major political parties.
Krasniqi gives three arguments why candidates for mayors avoid having a written contract with citizens:
“First, if we would have such program, debate would rather focus on the content of the program, and not on the big policy. Parties are more interested in shifting attention to big politics and big political rhetorics.
Secondly, the parties themselves and their leaders do not focus on local governance, but rather see it as an annex to parliamentary elections. They do not see it as a goal in itself for Albania to have autonomy.
Third, the concept of top leaders is that the central government controls everything. For example, Mr. Rama constantly says: “If you vote against us, the central government will not support you”, which is anti-legal and anti-democratic, but it is typical of the mentality of a country that does not respects local government, does not accept local independence, and does not respect the vote. On the other hand, Mr. Berisha and Mr. Meta say: “We will change the central government to help the local government.” It’s practically the same thing. They do not say that the new central government that we want to create will not be interfere with your business, but will rather respect local government. They say they we want to have their own prime minister, suggesting he or she would play the same role as the current one.
This means that both parties demand a significant central government and a fictitious local government, which is like an annex to the central government.
The data collected by Faktoje support and illustrate Krasniqi’s argument. Most of the candidates of the three major parties (the Socialist Party, Together We Win Coalition and the Democratic Party) do not offer voters an electoral program.
Only 6 out of 61 candidates of the Together We Win Coalition have published an electoral program.
Similarly, only 5 out of 60 candidates of the Socialist Party have an electoral program
Only 2 out of 14 Democratic Party candidates have an electoral program.
This political neglect of local elections both affects and is affected by the power that the local government has in relationship with the central government. Krasniqi explains:
“All the big investments in the territory of Albania, from Lungomare or the Airport, to the big project of Shkodra and Velipoja, are projects undertaken by the central government. In other words, these are projects imposed by the central government on the local one. These are not mayors’ projects.
The concept of regionalization has failed and there is no region in Albania that has made any joint projects and as a matter of fact, the candidates there, not only do not present any projects, but they do not even have the power to present any projects. They understand that the rich part of their areas will be controlled by Tirana, so they remain as the ‘chief cleaners’ of their areas, the mayors who control the rains, earthquakes, natural disasters, fires, the hiring of watermen, small funeral services, the cleaning of the city, and not as real city managers.”